I'm taking a playwriting class right now. I'm enjoying it much more than I thought it would. To be honest, as much as I'm enjoying the actual writing process (even though it's entirely devoid of anything but a first draft ..), my favorite part are the theatre activities/games or whatever we play at the start of each class. For example, today we were told to imagine we were a political pundit, leader, or something that generates national news headlines, and we had to come up with an arbitrary point to present. Then, someone had to disagree with it. For example, I said that the only way to lower the crime rate in Flint is to force all of the poor people to move out. Troubling was it that several people thought I was being serious - but still, an entertaining game.
One of my classmates - a neighbor - asked me for a ride home today. He's an interesting person that I enjoy watching more than actually interacting with - mostly, because he likes to say and do things to generate attention/reaction, and I don't do terribly well in those sorts of encounters. I've always been curious as to what he actually thinks about certain topics - he's so driven towards eliciting an intense response that it's hard to get a handle on it. I imagine that's part of the purpose, whether conscious or un. Anyway, he's been a friend of sorts for awhile, although my relationship with him was initially provoked pretty much entirely as a way of ensuring I retained some connection to a girl I use to be in love with. This is no longer the case, although seeing her car in his driveway last weekend was kind of weird.
I tried to keep the conversation on the drive home - less than five minutes - lightweight, as I was tired and wanted to be at home, basking in the comforting glow of my enormous computer monitor and the joys of THE INTERNET. We talked mostly about random things, and at some point, I mentioned that my primary goal in life was to survive entirely from the written word, and that I didn't really care what format - for now - that that word happened to take. I then mentioned that, ideally, I'd be able to survive writing entirely about video games. This is where the conversation took a strange turn.
He then more or less accused me of wanting to produce irrelevant things that had no bearing on anybody. I agree with this - although I plan to stay active in academic circles, my heart and soul are in video games, regardless of whether or not it will have an impact on anybody's life. I also have absolutely no problem with this - I'll contribute, as I can, to the growth of both academic and social culture in my life, but hey: in the end, my happiness is all that ultimately matters. So long as my chosen lifestyle doesn't fuck up that of other people, then I see absolutely no failing. I responded with my usual response when anybody tells me something is irrelevant:
"Everything is irrelevant if you zoom out far enough."
Most people understand this to mean that, ultimately, I am a nihilist, and don't usually dig deeper into the concept - which is a shame, as I'd love to be challenged on that and have a good argument over it, but hey. My friend did not. Instead, he provided an entirely unexpected response: he called me pretentious.
"What do you mean, that makes me pretentious?"
"That's just a really pretentious thing to say, you know?"
First, lets look at the definition of "Pretentious": (thanks, dictionary.com)
1. full of pretense or pretension.
2. characterized by assumption of dignity or importance.
3. making an exaggerated outward show; ostentatious.
I'm a pretty low-key kind of guy (it feels weird to refer to myself as any kind of guy ..) and generally acknowledge my own self-importance when it is demanded of me. I might be an asshole that doesn't like anybody, but I'm generally not the pretentious, academic/literary/etc-elitist sort, so this comment confused me. Isn't nihilism kind of the opposite of being pretentious? I kind of think so, but again - I'd love for someone to argue with me about this.
Why I am still thinking about this I am not sure. It wasn't meant as an insult, I think. My friend - and his .. well, his posse, often call things pretentious. As far as I can tell, their determination for calling something pretentious requires two things: that what you said might have been a good idea, and that they were probably incapable of it themselves. I used to get a kick out of hanging out with them, as they threw around the word 'pretentious' all the time - it felt like being called a weiner in second grade or something, as if they didn't really understand what the word meant.
I'm an English major. A lot of us are irritating, self-indulgent and pretentious fucks. But that's just the thing - he's a writer, an actor, a reasonable intelligent person. He's a grandiose sort when he's speaking, demanding attention in the same way Brad Pitt does (he sort of looks like him and speaks similarly) whenever he enters a scene. Yet I .. well, I don't think most people notice when I enter a room, and I get spoken overtop of rather frequently. I prefer things this way - I'd rather observe than interact. Yet what really confuses me is the irony of his calling me pretentious when it seems like almost every action he executes is designed to draw attention. Isn't that a bit self-important, as if he's saying, "Hey! Look at me! I'm about to do something REALLY SIGNIFICANT AND YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS IT OR ELSE, WELL, WHO KNOWS WHAT WOULD HAPPEN BUT I WOULDN'T WANT TO BE YOU."
That's kind of exaggeration, but only slightly. You'd be surprised.
I should probably mention that his group of friends loves to throw that word around - "Dude, you're pretentious for double-hitting that blunt" and "Quit being so pretentious, we don't want to read your story" are common enough sorts of lines to hear in his home. There's something kind of disturbing going on here (oh, I just found out: if you spell "disturbing" wrong, and right click on it to get the right spelling, the first choice that isn't the word "disturbing" is "masturbating." Awesome), mostly because I find that particular group of friends to be among the most arrogant and self-important of any that attend my school. There's a beautiful, wonderful irony in their designating everything but themselves as pretentious.
But hey, I guess if you zoom out far enough, pretty much everybody is pretentious.